Review: ‘Ticket to Paradise’ has Julia Roberts and George Clooney, and that’s enough

A man and a woman with their shoes in their hands, laughing on a beach in the movie "Ticket to Paradise."
George Clooney, left, and Julia Roberts in the movie “Ticket to Paradise.”
(Universal Pictures via AP)

Like we needed any additional proof, but the breezy new romantic comedy “Ticket to Paradise” confirms that Julia Roberts and George Clooney still look great in the air, on dry land or out at sea; wearing formalwear, swimsuits and wetsuits; bickering, bantering and burying the hatchet.

A sleepless night in a humid jungle cannot defeat Roberts’ iconic hair or mess with Clooney’s perfectly maintained scruff. Likewise, a movie mostly absent of surprises and character details cannot fully vanquish the appeal of seeing these two movie stars at a time when the viability of both movies and stars has come into question. At one point, their characters are called dinosaurs. Part of the appeal of “Ticket to Paradise” is seeing Roberts and Clooney together before they — and this type of glossy studio entertainment — become extinct.

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Morbid? Hey, we’re all getting older. Even Clooney’s sandpaper stubble is now sometimes hard to pick up, its color more salt than pepper. But I’m not being grim so much as leaning into the wistful tone of “Ticket to Paradise,” which has its leads musing about missed opportunities and reminiscing about their younger days when they lived by the adage “Why save the good stuff for later?”

A woman in an embroidered dress smiles at a man in a tuxedo.
Julia Roberts, left, and George Clooney star in “Ticket to Paradise.”
(Vince Valitutti / Universal Pictures via AP)

When the film begins, the good stuff between Georgia (Roberts) and David (Clooney) appears to be in the distant rearview mirror. We’re introduced to these characters as director Ol Parker (“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”), who wrote the film with Daniel Pipski, cuts between them recalling how they met and impulsively married 25 years ago. Their accounts differ. “Her parents thought she was too young,” David remembers. Georgia’s take? “They thought he wasn’t good enough for me.”

But again … distant rearview mirror. Georgia and David divorced 20 years ago for reasons, we learn, they themselves don’t seem to truly understand. That hasn’t stopped them from fashioning a festering animosity over the course of two decades, so much so that their daughter, Lily (Kaitlyn Dever), can’t bring herself to tell them that they’ll be seated next to each other at her college graduation. Good thing they’ll never have to see each other again, right? Right???

Plot mechanics necessitate a reunion, and we get one after Lily heads to Bali with her BFF, Wren (Billie Lourd), and decides to marry the first local seaweed farmer she meets, Gede (Maxime Bouttier). Mom and Dad pack their resortwear, call a truce and agree to a strategy: They’ll outwardly support their daughter’s plans, all the while sabotaging the wedding so the youngsters don’t make the same mistake that they made all those years ago.

Roberts has experience in this sort of thing, of course, having schemed to break up Cameron Diaz and Dermot Mulroney 25 years ago (!) in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” This movie is not as good as that rom-com classic, which featured a peak Rupert Everett and a subversive screenplay that wasn’t afraid to shade Roberts as a villain, albeit one you still rooted for. (Mostly. Maybe?)

A young man and woman sit at a table with a bottle of alcohol.
Maxime Bouttier, left, and Kaitlyn Dever in “Ticket to Paradise.”
(Universal Pictures via AP)

“Ticket to Paradise” doesn’t invest enough time or energy into the young lovers for you to care whether or not they make it to the altar. This movie is all about beautiful people, gorgeous scenery and the elders rekindling their romance, with the primary obstacles on that front being Georgia’s annoyingly adoring French boyfriend (the appealing Lucas Bravo from “Emily in Paris”) and the time it takes for them to realize their biggest mistake wasn’t their marriage, but their divorce.

But, if you’ve seen the movie’s trailer (or even if you haven’t), you probably know all that. Just as you know that Roberts’ unbridled laugh remains one of the great pleasures of film and that Clooney can play awkward dorkiness just as convincingly as suave elegance. If “Top Gun: Maverick’s” secret weapon was Tom Cruise going Mach 10, “Ticket to Paradise” attains its peak with Roberts and Clooney playing a fierce game of beer pong while silly dancing around to House of Pain.

Dinosaurs? Maybe. But let’s hope the asteroid doesn’t hit for a while.

'Ticket to Paradise'

Rated: PG-13, for some strong language and brief suggestive material

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 21 in general release